Cheerful face towards San Francisco

Has anyone been curious why the hillsides of Alcatraz are turning pink?

Pink drosanthemum blooming on the cellhouse slope. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Pink iceplant, Drosanthemum floribundum or Persian carpet, has been very prominent this past week from Crissy Field, Fisherman’s Wharf and on a clear morning, even from Doyle Drive coming into the city.

The planting of the tiny succulent was part of a beautification effort undertaken by the military in 1924 after being pressured by the vocal citizens of San Francisco to landscape the barren the island. Inmates took part in the planting and soon, carpets of pink cascaded down the steep hillsides, not only stabilizing the soil but providing a cheerful look desired by San Francisco. It is somewhat ironic that a gentle soft pink was chosen to mask the harsh prison.

Historic view of the Persian Carpet from the parade ground. Photo by C. Stucker

Neglected cellhouse slope in 2007. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

With 40 years of neglect, the iceplant on the cellhouse slope suffered and was soon choked out with oxalis, wild radish and grasses. In 2007, this historic garden area was restored.

 

 

Stabilized slope newly planted with iceplant plugs, October 2007. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

The slope was stabilized with jute netting and cuttings of Drosanthemum from elsewhere on the island were established on the slope.  Coaxing the drosanthemum to take root and to keep the slope free of oxalis has been no easy task. Staff and volunteers have invested countless hours into weeding over the past four years, but seeing our efforts from across the water, well over a mile, is quite awarding.

The slope this week. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

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